A lot of work goes into these tiny humans...like ALOT. Nothing is more satisfying then when you've worn them out and they reward you with a nice long (but never long enough) nap. Being someone who likes my home to look a certain way, the idea of colorful plastic haphazardly dotted around my house was less than ideal. I swore I would only have things that were aesthetically pleasing, that my child's toys would be wooden and that I wouldn't waste money on buying too many toys, because what do kids need all that junk for anyway. WELL WELL WELL, look who is the fool now. With a basket full of said plastic crap overflowing into every square inch of my living room and a 6 month old that seemed to still not be all THAT entertained for longer than a few minutes, I decided to take it back a few notches and re-immurse myself in some of the ideals I'd originally touted. Through a friend, I'd observed her parenting style using the Montessori Method. I'd never heard of it before and after looking into it, I really like some of the ideas and how they aide in your babies development. Because I have no actual training in this method and certainly haven't dedicated the many hours it would require to be a Montessori Master, I would never pretend to know more than anyone who too could do some light googling paired with mild-medium pinteresting so please don't be fooled by my Instagram stories, I'm winging it just as much as you are. What I would like to do, is share with you some of the sensory activities I have tried and tested and believe to be stimulating, engaging and rewarding to watch. The good news...they're cheap and you may even have most if not all of these things already in your house!
This one is SO SO simple and fun. I went to a local party supply store and purchased 3 plain balloons in 3 different colors (Red, Yellow, Blue). You can choose whichever colors you like but try to make them bright and from both the warm and cool color family (Warm: Red, Yellow, Orange. Cool: Green, Blue, Purple). Balloons blown up with helium is the key here. Mine lasted over 4 days which gives you the ability to try this a few times.
Tie a LOOSE loop at the end of each string and slide one onto each foot and one wrist. Be sure that the loops are tight enough that they wont immediately slide off and float away, but loose enough that they are not cutting into babies skin and circulation. Enjoy watching baby kick, wiggle, and stare in amazement. This allows them to understand action and reaction. The act of moving their arms and legs results in the balloons bopping back and forth. With any luck, you'll get big smiles and a few squeals. With that said, it is possible for babies to go into sensory overload so it's important that at the first signs of becoming frustrated with the activity, gently remove the balloons and allow baby to have a break from stimulation.
Cost Breakdown: $5.50 for 3 balloons blown up
2. Rainbow Gym
I purchased a simple wooden "gym" that would allow me to hang various toys from the bar so that it could be enjoyed by my son in his infancy while laying on his back. This allowed him to bat at the hanging objects until honing his coordination and eventually grabbing them. This eventually led to him picking up the legs to his gym and shifting it around (sigh...the down side to it not being connected to a mat). Because he now rolls from back to tummy, the way in which he originally enteracted with this "toy" wasn't the same so I decided to switch things up. Because my son is now at the age where he can see and engage in brightly colored things, I hung strands of ribbon in rainbow order across the bar of his gym and tied on wooden rings at varrying heights throughout. This encourages my son to reach out and pull or hold onto the ribbons and rings when in a seated position but has also given him joy in using his feet to run through the ribbons if laying on his back.
Cost Breakdown: Ribbons (any craft store): $1 per color, 6 colors= $6 | Wooden Rings (amazon): | Play gym: Depends on your choice. Mine was about $30
3. Sensory Bag
What's better than keeping baby entertained with things you probably already have in your house...nothing (ok sleep...sleep is better). Got some ziplock bags? CHECK! Water? CHECK! Small objects like buttons, ribbon, pom poms, googley eyes etc? CHECK! And one last thing...some duct tape. CHECK. If you have these items then you're ready! Simply fill your largest size ziplock back with 1/4 water (you don't want to over fill it). Then place all of your small items (preferably they vary some in size, color and shape) inside the bag and seal it shut. Find a space that is safe for your baby to play on the floor and tape all 4 sides of your bag to the floor or play mat. This is a great sensory activity to encourage your baby to spend more time on their tummy, strengthening their back muscles, eventually leading to their ability to crawl. This activity can also be enjoyed from a seated position as long as baby is able to sit up unaided at this stage. It's great to watch baby try and reach the small objects within the bag and move them from one side to the other. Just as an FYI, you should always stay close by for this activity in the event that the bag bursts and baby is able to place any small objects in their mouth, as this could be a choking hazard. You shouldn't have to worry about this so long as your bag is new and all sides are securely taped, but it's better to be safe! We are going to try this again with different items and liquids. I'm thinking colorful gel (like the kind from the $ Store) and things like straws and beads inside?
Cost Breakdown: Ziplock Bag $0.10 | Small Objects: Depends on what you have available | Duct Tape: $3
FYI: This can also be done using colored water, oil, and colored hair gels. Feel free to get creative, anything that aides in sensory and is safe for baby! Even better if f you've already got it in the cabinets!
4. Splash Pad
Ok now this one you definitely already have the stuff for! This one is great when you've got things to do like make lunch or clean up the dishes and need both hands but baby wants to play. Simply lay down a towel and place a shallow baking tray (must have a lip around all 4 sizes) on the floor with a little bit of water in it. Place a plastic measuring cup, a silicone spatula and a plastic measuring spoon in the tray so that when in the tummy time position, baby can use these objects to splash and chew. Baby will love the freedom to make some noise and a little bit of a mess (it's only water after all). It also encourages baby to be in that tummy time position for longer than they may ordinarily spend in this position.
Again, you must keep an eye on baby and be sure not to place anything that could potentially be a choking hazard within their reach and make sure that baby hasn't decided to take a little rest with their face in the water, as this could lead to drowning, yes even if the water is very shallow. Also, be sure that this is a safe distance from the oven, stove and anywhere you may need to maneuver to avoid tripping over baby. Be sure to dry up the space with your towel with you're done!
Cost Breakdown: Free! well sorta...assuming you already have this stuff. Improvise if not!
5. Spaghetti Bath
I was literally giddy with excitement to try this, as I could only imagine how my son would react to all the squishiness. Check your cabinets for out-of-date pasta, preferably spaghetti noodles but hey, there are no rules! If you've not got any, pick up the cheapest you can find in the grocery store but be sure you have LOTS...I mean LOTS because for this, the more the merrier! You can do this a couple of different ways, in your bathtub or if you don't have a bath or would prefer to do this outside or elsewhere, then a clear plastic tub will do (ya know, like the ones you store your Christmas decor in). Boil up all your pasta but be sure it either has time to cool or you run it under cold water until it is no longer hot. Place your pasta in either the tub or container and let baby sit right down in the big middle of it all wearing as little as possible so they are able to take in the sensory of the limp noodles all around them. They'll love squishing it between their fingers, stomping it with their toes and may even bring some to their mouth for a little taste (which is why you may want to at least keep their diaper on for this). Get the camera ready, this is bound to be funny!
Cost Breakdown: Pasta: Depends on grocery store and brand...the cheaper the better!
6. Treasure Basket
The treasure basket is probably one of the most common things you will run across in your efforts to research the Montessori Method. The idea is simple, fill a small basket with various items of different shapes, sizes and textures. It is ideal to keep the items wooden and natural in nature, but as you can see by my rubber toothbrush, it's not a hard rule. Simple scour your home for items you may already have, or cruise the aisles of the dollar store as there is no need to spend much on the items for their basket. They'll love the ability to pluck things out one by one, explore them and then head back to their basket for more to discover. I've found that this kept my son entertained for much longer than just scattering toys out in front of him on the floor. Maybe because it gives him the opportunity to pull things out as and when he's ready. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that theres a level of mischief to it, as we rarely let them pull things from bags or baskets one by one. I recommend choosing a softer type basket (easily found in the bathroom related aisles at the store) as they will also pick this up and explore it. Have a rotation of items that you can trade out in your treasure basket to keep them interested. Just be sure that you're choosing items that are not potential choking hazards.
Cost Breakdown: Basket: $5.99, Toothbrush (2pk) $1, Wooden Massager $2.50, Wooden Hair Brush $3, Natural Sponge (2pk) $1, Silver Dish Sponge (3pk) $1.
I hope these inspire some adventurous playtime for you and baby and your family loves them as much as ours did! Just remember, you don't have to spend a lot of money on toys to bond with your baby and grow their imagination. It can be the simplest things (until of course they're old enough to want a car and a spaghetti bath or balloons just won't do). If you're curious about the Montessori Method, I encourage you to look into it and see if any of its ideals work for you and can apply to your day-to-day. There are a million and one crazy cheap and fun ideas floating around on the internet, please comment with any you've tried and loved! I'm always looking for new ways to wear my kid out!
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